Jeeves

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Reginald Jeeves, here portrayed by  in 's  series, is 's most famous character.
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Reginald Jeeves, here portrayed by Stephen Fry in ITV's Jeeves and Wooster series, is P. G. Wodehouse's most famous character.

In the stories and novels of P. G. Wodehouse, Reginald Jeeves is Bertie Wooster's valet and the namesake of the series of books about him and his employer. He is the quintessential "gentleman's personal gentleman" and is Wodehouse's most famous character.

Contents

Jeeves the character

As with all of Wodehouse's male domestic servants, Jeeves is always known by his surname. For more than fifty years after his appearance, Wodehouse gave him no other name, but in the late novel Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971) a minor character addresses him as "Reggie," revealing to the reader and to Bertie that his first name is Reginald.

Contrary to popular belief, Jeeves is a gentleman's gentleman, not a butler, though Bertie lends him out on several occasions to serve in that capacity, and notes in typical Wodehousian terms that "if the call comes, he can buttle with the best of them."

Jeeves is well known for his convoluted speech and for quoting from the plays of Shakespeare and famous romantic poets. He has distinct opinions about certain items that Bertie adopts, such as a moustache, handkerchiefs with initials, straw boater, an alpine hat, or purple socks. Should Jeeves express his disapproval for an accessory of Bertie's, it is certain that Bertie will dispose of it some way or another before the end of the story.

Jeeves is a member of the Junior Ganymede Club, a club for butlers and valets, in whose club book all members must write down all the wrongdoings of their employers; the section labeled WOOSTER B, the largest in the book, contains eleven pages.

Only once in the Wodehouse canon does Jeeves appear without Bertie: Ring for Jeeves, in which he is on loan to the 9th Earl of Rowcester while Bertie attends a school where the idle rich learn self-sufficiency in case of social upheaval. The novel was adapted from one of Wodehouse's attempts to write a Jeeves play, and he felt that the play needed a more conventional ending, but was unwilling to marry off Bertie.

Jeeves's first job was as a page-boy at a girls' school, after which he had at least eleven other employers: he was with Lord Worplesdon, resigning after nearly a year because of Worplesdon's choice of evening dress; Mr Digby Thistleton (later Lord Bridgenorth), who sold hair tonic; Mr Montague Todd, a financier who was in the second year of a prison term when Jeeves mentioned him to Bertie; Lord Brancaster, who gave port-soaked seedcake to his pet parrot; and Lord Frederick Ranelagh, swindled in Monte Carlo by the reappearing character Soapy Sid, all before he came into the employ of Bertie Wooster. Later, he worked for Lord Rowcester for the length of Ring for Jeeves; Chuffy Chufnell for a week in Thank You, Jeeves, after giving notice due to Bertie's unwillingness to quit playing the banjolele; Pop Stoker for a short period; Gussie Fink-Nottle, who masqueraded as Bertie in The Mating Season; and Sir Watkyn Bassett in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, as a trick to get Bertie released from prison.

Jeeves's propensity for wisdom and knowledge is so well known that it inspired the search website Ask Jeeves.

The Jeeves books

Wodehouse's work is often divided into "series" due to the preponderance of reccurring characters and settings; the stories and novels about Bertie and Jeeves are often called "the Jeeves books".

The concept which eventually became Jeeves actually preceded Bertie in Wodehouse's mind: he had long considered the idea of a butler – later a valet – who could solve any problem. A character named Reggie Pepper, who was in all respects very much like Bertie but without Jeeves, was the protagonist of four short stories; Wodehouse soon decided to rewrite the Pepper stories, switching Reggie's character to Bertie Wooster and combining him with an ingenious valet. In his autobiographical Bring on the Girls!, Wodehouse suggests that Jeeves was based on an actual butler of his called Robinson, and recounts a story where Robinson extricated Wodehouse from a real-life predicament.

The Jeeves and Wooster canon was written between 1917 and 1974, including Wodehouse's final complete novel, Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. Bertie narrates all the stories but one. They are set in three primary locations: in London, where Bertie has a flat and is a member of the raucous Drones Club; at various stately homes in the English countryside, most commonly Totleigh Towers; or in New York City and a few other locations in the U.S. All take place in a timeless world based on an idealized version of England before World War II.

Jeeves and Bertie first appeared in "Extricating Young Gussie", published in 1917, though Jeeves's role was quite minor. In the later stories, his part grew until he and Bertie were co-protagonists; indeed, in recent years they have come to be called a comic duo. The Jeeves canon consists of eleven novels and a number of short stories:

  • The Man with Two Left Feet (1917) – One story, "Extricating Young Gussie", in a book of thirteen
  • My Man Jeeves (1919) – Four stories in a book of eight: "Leave it to Jeeves", "Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest", "Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg", and "The Aunt and the Sluggard".
  • The Inimitable Jeeves (1923) – Originally a semi-novel with eighteen chapters, it is normally published as eleven short stories: "Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum" with "No Wedding Bells for Bingo", "Aunt Agatha Speaks Her Mind" with "Pearls Mean Tears", "The Pride of the Woosters is Wounded" with "The Hero's Reward", "Introducing Claude and Eustace" with "Sir Roderick Comes To Lunch", "A Letter of Introduction" with "Startling Dressiness of a Lift Attendant", "Comrade Bingo" with "Bingo Has a Bad Goodwood", "The Great Sermon Handicap", "The Purity of the Turf", "The Metropolitan Touch", "The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace", and "Bingo and the Little Woman" with "All's Well".
  • Carry on Jeeves (1925) – Ten stories: "Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest", "Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg", "The Aunt and the Sluggard", "Jeeves Takes Charge", "The Artistic Career of Corky", "The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy", "Without the Option", "Clustering Round Young Bingo", "Fixing it for Freddie", and "Bertie Changes His Mind". The first three are repeated from My Man Jeeves, the second-to-last is a rewritten Reggie Pepper story, and the last is the only story in the canon narrated by Jeeves.
  • Very Good Jeeves (1930) – Eleven stories: "Jeeves and the Impending Doom", "The Inferiority Complex of Old Sippy", "Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit", "Jeeves and the Song of Songs", "Episode of the Dog McIntosh", "The Spot of Art", "Jeeves and the Kid Clementina", "The Love That Purifies", "Jeeves and the Old School Chum", "The Indian Summer of an Uncle", and "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy".
  • Thank you, Jeeves (1934) – The first full-length Jeeves novel
  • Right Ho, Jeeves (1934)
  • The Code of the Woosters (1938)
  • Joy in the Morning (1947)
  • The Mating Season (1949)
  • Ring for Jeeves (1953) – The only novel in which Jeeves appears without Bertie
  • Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954)
  • A Few Quick Ones (1959) – "Jeeves Makes an Omelette", a rewrite of a Reggie Pepper story originally from My Man Jeeves
  • Jeeves in the Offing (1960)
  • Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963)
  • Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971)
  • Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (1974)

Television and radio portrayals

Missing image
Jeeves-n-wooster.jpg
Hugh Laurie (left) and Stephen Fry portray Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves

BBC1 1960s

May 1965 - November 1967 The World of Wooster was a half hour comedy series for BBC1 starring Ian Carmichael as Bertie and Dennis Price as Jeeves. Derek Nimmo played Bingo. The 1967 run was Blandings Castle.

BBC Radio 4 Series

There was also a popular BBC Radio series in the 1970s starring Michael Hordern as Jeeves and Richard Briers as Bertie.

ITV Series

In the early 1990s, double act Fry and Laurie starred in Jeeves and Wooster, with Hugh Laurie as Bertie and Stephen Fry as Jeeves.

References

  1. Template:Book reference 2
  2. Template:Book reference 2

External links

fr:Jeeves

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